Protecting freedom of expression

2 February 2015

The Socialist International once again expresses it deep concern over actions taken by the Turkish authorities which violate the basic freedoms and rights of its people and have no place in a genuine democracy.

The trial and sentencing to six years imprisonment of the President of the Tunceli Bar Association, Ugur Yesiltepe, along with six others, for exercising their democratic rights, among them freedom of expression, is completely unacceptable. This is the first time since the military coup of 1980 that a chair of a Turkish Bar Association is sentenced to prison. Prosecutors alleged that through his work, his writings and his participation in rallies in the province of Tunceli, Yesiltepe was engaged in terrorist acts. The Union of Turkish Bar Associations and all other Provincial Bar Associations have issued statements condemning the verdict and pledging their support for Ugur Yesiltepe.

The Socialist International also protests against the motion that has been drawn up against Veli Agbaba, Deputy Chair of the opposition SI member party, the Republican People's Party, CHP, on grounds of “reasonable suspicion”, following corruption allegations made by Agbaba about the ruling party. A recent change in the law in Turkey enables the detention of people and seizure of their property on the basis of a mere “suspicion” as opposed to “strong suspicion based on concrete evidence”. The prosecutor in this case has requested a range of prison sentences for Agbaba, ranging from one year and nine months to a maximum of eight years and four months.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in any democratic society, guaranteed by constitution in all states where there is true democracy, and it is enshrined in and protected by the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). These actions are clear violations of freedom of expression by a government which is evidently repressing its judiciary and rendering inoperable the principle of judicial review of government practice and policy.